Monday, March 9, 2015

Snow Job

Spring Break is gone. Well, most of it. Families were blindsided by WCPSS with a complete reversal decision announcement on Saturday about the winter weather make up days.

Parents are angry. So far, over 7,500 parents, teachers, and students have signed a petition to show how angry they are. Many families have long-standing nonrefundable travel plans. Many were looking forward to this one of very few opportunities to be together for the week.

I understand their anger. And their frustration. But let's make sure we understand what we really should be angry about. It's not about Spring Break. It's about why and how we lost Spring Break.

In a nutshell, this is the epitome of bad governance.

Let's begin by understanding that the 2014-2015 school calendar has built-in make up days. According to the WCPSS website: March 23, June 9, June 10, and June 11 are the Teacher Work Days "Available for Weather Make up".

Board Chair Christine Kushner and Supt. Merrill first told us that June wouldn't be used and our children would be attending school on Good Friday and two Saturdays in order to provide "quality instructional time".

What a load. Last Friday was originally planned as an early-release day. It was extended 2 1/2 hours to a full day to make up for one of the missed snow days. But then... it was delayed 2 hours again due to ice that didn't happen. Where did that "quality instruction time" go?

And what about the day WCPSS waited to cancel school until after a few buses hit the road? That "quality instruction" isn't being made up at all.

Enough of that, let's talk about the governance issue.

On Tuesday, March 3rd's work session, WCPSS staff recommended using Good Friday and two Saturdays. Go to 46:55 mark of their work session.

At the 55:25 mark of the Board work session, Supt. Merrill clearly supports use of this option as a way to protect Spring Break for families.

At the 58:00 mark, Cathy Moore asks for support of this staff recommendation and Chair Kushner responds "You have consensus support of that recommendation."


Even the so loved WCPSS Twitter account tweeted:

(They're not so sassy anymore, are they?)

So, what could possibly have happened between Tuesday and Saturday? That's the big question.

An even bigger and more concerning question is... why the quiet announcement on a Saturday? Since the Board wasn't scheduled to meet, who made this decision to use Spring Break days?

What's the point of having a public discussion and "consensus approval" from the Board about the make up days if they're not going to follow it?

Why include input from staff and communicate this to the public if they are just going to run roughshod and make up their own rules without any transparent discussion?

I understand staff met again on Friday and Saturday to discuss this. What influenced them to convene again to discuss a different option? Who was at that meeting? Was the Board involved? If so, how? I've asked for minutes from this meeting but there are no minutes taken at staff meetings.

Did WCPSS violate the public records law by deleting records from Twitter and Facebook about previous discussions and decisions?

And where in the world is Supt. Merrill? Mr. Mustache didn't even show up to defend this decision in today's press conference. Instead, he sent Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore to do his dirty work. Coward.

So many questions...

But, again, this isn't really about Spring Break. Losing Spring Break is simply the result of bad governance, a lack of transparency, and a Board that does what it wants to do, regardless of policy.

I'm just hoping those 7,500 people will remember this next election.